Lewis best pick in Pearce recall

Oct. 14, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Strip away the distractions and pathetic attempts to deceive voters, and the choice in the District 18 recall election is clear.

If you want a state senator who votes solely based on his own set of rigid beliefs, re-elect Russell Pearce.

If you want a senator who has promised to actively seek input from his constituents, elect Jerry Lewis.

Voters should choose the latter.

Discontent with Pearce’s leadership style has been brewing in the district for more than a year. His west Mesa colleagues nearly ousted the Senate president from a Republican state committeeman post in December, months before 10,365 registered District 18 voters signed petitions to recall him.

It is the first time in state history a sitting legislator has been recalled.

And yet, though more than 10,000 of Pearce’s constituents have said he does not represent them on key issues, such as education and the economy, the senator seems to firmly believe only he knows what is best for the district.

Pearce continues to dismiss the recall as an ill-conceived attempt by a narrow band of “liberal special-interest groups” to silence his limited-government views. He considers the opposition as proof that his priorities and actions are on target.

Meanwhile, his supporters gathered signatures and bankrolled Olivia Cortes’ now-defunct campaign in hopes of drawing enough votes from the opposition to keep Pearce in office, as if voters were that gullible.

They mistakenly seem to believe that the ends justify the means.

Thankfully, Lewis has refused to engage in similar political shenanigans. He promised repeatedly during last week’s debate that if elected, he would regularly meet with residents, business owners and civic leaders to gather and represent their opinions.

Lewis already has met with several leaders, including Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Michael Cowan, to talk about key issues facing the district, so there’s reason to believe he’ll stand by his word.

Lewis is a conservative Republican who mirrors Pearce on most issues except immigration. He supports stronger border security but believes it’s the federal government’s job to enforce it, not the states.

Lewis is a newcomer to politics, and it shows. Specifics are lacking in his campaign. For instance, as a charter-school CEO and former accountant, he should have more detailed stances on education and economic recovery.

But Lewis had only a few weeks to form his campaign. Though he announced his candidacy strongly, with more than 200 Mesa residents and civic leaders endorsing him, he has gotten lost in the drama surrounding Cortes’ candidacy.

Lewis would have been a more formidable challenger if he had a few more months to hone and share his message. Ideally, he should have waited until next summer, when Pearce was up for re-election, to challenge one of the state’s most infamous politicians.

But that’s not how it worked out. Recall advocates wanted to force the vote on Pearce’s performance now. And anyway, the driving issue in the Nov. 8 election seems to be style, not substance.

On that point, Lewis is the un-Pearce. He doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, and he doesn’t try to take credit for things in which he had little or no involvement, such as Pearce’s disputed claim that he helped bring Able Engineering to Mesa.

Lewis would be the open mind and listening ear that District 18 deserves, and that’s good enough reason to vote for him in this recall. – Wednesday

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